When Life Seems Meaningless
Gary Roe, Hospice Brazos Valley Chaplain and Author on 02/01/2018
"I wander. I drift. I have no purpose. Everything feels meaningless," Mark said.
"Me too. I'm just here. That's all," Melanie added.
Mark and Melanie's daughter Faith was their third child. After two normal, healthy pregnancies and deliveries, Faith's entry into the world was complicated. She was born with a rare syndrome and was immediately transferred to another hospital for specialized treatment.
Faith did not improve. After several weeks, it was deemed best to remove her from life support. She was 25 days old.
"When her heart stopped, mine stopped too. I have a family, a good life, and a good marriage, yet I wonder why I'm here," Melanie said.
Loss shakes our sense of purpose and meaning
The death of a loved one reaches the inmost part of our hearts and souls. We wonder who we are now, and why we're here. Our sense of identity and purpose can be hard hit. Our view of life, ourselves, God, and everything else gets hauled before our internal review board. Our wonderings multiply.
How could this happen? What now? Who am I? Why am I here?
In grief, many can feel like a small, lifeless twig, floating swiftly downstream in a rocky river. We get banged up. We're exhausted. We feel powerless, swept along by this irresistible current we have no say in and no control over.
Yet, there is sense in which we can use the swift current of our grief to honor our loved one and help ourselves adjust and recover. Part of this includes recovering, redefining, or discovering (perhaps for the first time) our purpose.
Nothing can bring perspective to life like death. We see people, life, and events more clearly. We have new eyes. We now know anything can happen to anyone at any time.
This can either crush us, or spur us on to make the most of every day, even each moment. The stakes are high. How we live and respond to this loss matters deeply - not just for ourselves, but for all those around us. Living well in the midst of all this will demand a clear sense of purpose.
Parent, spouse, daughter, son, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Doctor, lawyer, insurance agent, homemaker, nurse, teacher, cashier, construction specialist, customer service associate, dentist, etc. These are roles we occupy. Crucial, important roles. The problem with roles is that they change. Something happens, and the role can be taken from us.
Our purpose must be bigger than any role we have - even larger than all our roles put together. Our purpose is what drives what we do (our roles) and how we do them.
Is our purpose to serve others? Love others? Treat others as we would have them treat us? Make a positive impact in the world?
What do we want to leave behind? What kind of legacy do we want to shower upon those we love and care about?
Whatever we decide our purpose is, it will include every role we have, and yet transcend them all. It is the driving force behind our relationships, families, jobs, and careers. The more connected our lives are under one single purpose, the more focused, intentional, and meaningful life becomes.
Our departed loved ones can assist us in discovering and defining our life's purpose. This is part of their legacy to us. We can use our grief to honor them by living more intentionally than ever.
"I'll honor you by living the most meaningful life I can. I'll live with purpose."